P2P-TV systems performance are driven by the overlay topology that peers form. Several proposals have been made in the past to optimize it, yet little experimental studies have corroborated results. The aim of this work is to provide a comprehensive experimental comparison of different strategies for the construction and maintenance of the overlay topology in P2P-TV systems. To this goal, we have implemented different fully-distributed strategies in a P2P-TV application, called Peer-Streamer, that we use to run extensive experimental campaigns in a completely controlled set-up which involves thousands of peers, spanning very different networking scenarios. Results show that the topological properties of the overlay have a deep impact on both user quality of experience and network load. Strategies based solely on random peer selection are greatly outperformed by smart, yet simple strategies that can be implemented with negligible overhead. Even with different and complex scenarios, the neighborhood filtering strategy we devised as most performing guarantees to deliver almost all chunks to all peers with a play-out delay as low as only 6s even with system loads close to 1.0. Results are confirmed by running experiments on PlanetLab. PeerStreamer is open-source to make results reproducible and allow further research by the community. © 2012 IEEE.